The Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
17 June 2018 at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Mustang, Oklahoma
Ezekiel 17, 22-24 + Psalm 92 + 2 Corinthians 5: 6-10 + Mark 4, 26-34
It was December 1, 1955. A 42-year-old black woman boarded a bus to go home after a long day working and shopping. She found a seat at the start of the black section. At the next stop some white people got on so the driver ordered her to get up and give her seat to a white man. Tired and worn out from cleaning up after white people all day, she simply said, “No.” The driver called the police. She was arrested. Word got around quickly, and a local preacher called a meeting. They made one simple demand: that passengers be seated on a first-come first-served bases. To achieve this end, they began a boycott of the buses, and people walked to work. We know the rest of this story. It has become part of our national history in the slow and step-by-step movement toward achieving justice for all. Just because some colonists signed a piece of paper that proclaimed “liberty and justice for all” didn’t mean it was going to happen before the ink dried. It took from 1776 until 1955 for this nation to get serious about it making it a reality, and we’re still not there.
In a world growing more and more accustomed to instant everything these parables and the truth they reveal are difficult to hear and incorporate into our faith and life. There is something about us and our culture in this country that leads us to think that bigger is better. We have to have the tallest, the fastest, the biggest of everything. Then we fool ourselves into thinking that these superlatives are the best. We expect everything to be instant from the flipping of a light switch to the opening of a packet for an instant meal. It may be quick and it may easy, but that stuff in the packet is not really healthy, and the truth is, it does not taste as good as something made patiently from scratch.
These two timeless parables speak to us. They speak to the powerful and the control freak in us a disturbing message and reminder. We can’t do everything, and our attempt at it borders on idolatry. We have our role, our mission, and in speaking to his disciples, and with Mark writing to an impatient church, the message is clear. You plant the seed, and that’s all you need to do, but keep planting. We cannot make the seed grow. We can’t make a seedling grow faster by pulling on the top of it. We will just pull it out of the soil and destroy it.
Further, this pair of parables warns us about thinking or trying to do things big. Big is not best, and big does not necessarily produce a great amount or a great harvest when it comes to seeds. Great buildings begin with one brick. A book begins with one word on a page. A lifelong friendship begins with a chance encounter. With everything that lasts, there can be no hurry. Hurry ruins many things. The true savor of life is not gained from big things but from little ones. To sample a wine the taster needs on only a sip. Bad habits and sickness creep up slowly in little steps. Alcoholism begins with one drink and then maybe just one more “little one”. Marriages come apart not from one big fight, but from countless little slights and offenses over a long time.
The Parables that Jesus speaks to us today encourage those who are disappointed over how slowly comes the victory of goodness. They calm those who are in hurry with an invitation to slow down and savor the moment. Learn how to wait and enjoy it. These little parables correct those who want to be in control with a reminder that there is only one God, and it isn’t any of us. We may plant the seeds, but we must resist the temptation to think we know how to make them grow.